Mandel, Sally (Elizabeth) 1944-

views updated

MANDEL, Sally (Elizabeth) 1944-

PERSONAL: Born June 20, 1944, in Oneida, NY; daughter of Hamilton (a business executive) and Florence (Boyd) Allen; married Barry Mandel (a lawyer), August 17, 1967. Education: Attended University of Hull, 1964-65; University of Rochester, B.A., 1966.

ADDRESSES: Agent—Peter Lampack Agency, Inc., 551 Fifth Ave., Suite 2015, New York, NY 10017.

CAREER: Novelist. McCall's, New York, NY, proofreader, 1966-67; D.C. Heath & Co., Boston, MA, editorial assistant, 1967-68; Teradyne, Boston, MA, secretary, 1968-69; Experiment in International Living, New York, NY, part-time secretary, 1969-71; secretary in law firm, 1971-73; secretary to soap opera writer, 1973-74; writer, 1974—.

MEMBER: Authors Guild, Writers Room.



Change of Heart, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1980.

Quinn, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1981.

Portrait of a Married Woman, Bantam (New York, NY), 1986.

A Time to Sing, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1989.

Learning to Fly, Ballantine (New York, NY), 2000.

Out of the Blue, Ballantine (New York, NY), 2000.

Heart and Soul, Ballantine (New York, NY), 2002.

SIDELIGHTS: Sally Mandel specializes in romance novels. Some of her books are written to appeal to adults and youthful readers alike; Quinn, published in 1981, is an example. Other stories challenge the romance reader with unusual subject matter. In Out of the Blue, protagonist Anna Bolles has seemingly come to terms with her multiple sclerosis. At age twentynine, she uses a wheelchair, lives with her mother, teaches private school in New York, and harbors no illusions about finding love. Then at a gallery opening she meets a dashing businessman-cum-photographer, Joe Malone, who looks past her infirmity, something Anna at first cannot accept. But the chemistry is there. Out of the Blue chronicles Anna's attempt to reconcile her growing emotional attachment to Joe, while he deals with the prospect of becoming the partner of a woman with a permanent disability.

Assessing the 2000 book for Inside MS, Pamela Stebbins praised Mandel for being "on the nose with symptoms and accompanying emotions." A Publishers Weekly reviewer had praise for the novel's secondary characters, including Anna's "dastardly" father, "a womanizing headmaster and a glamorous femme fatale," although the reviewer added that Joe is depicted as so "devoted and selfless" that he comes off as bland. Diana Tixier Herald, writing for Booklist, found Out of the Blue "a robust novel filled with laughter and tears that is ideal for readers who only think they don't like romance."

Mandel's 2002 release, Heart and Soul, centers on tough-talking, would-be concert pianist Bess Stallone and the struggles she overcomes to reach her goal. This story "doesn't disappoint," said Susan Scribner in her Romance Reader review, "but it is more bittersweet than its predecessor." Bess's working-class New York background makes the talented young musician a social outcast among the more privileged students at the famed Juilliard School. Then there is the matter of her stage fright: Bess is prone to fainting at her recitals. Accepting her fate, she assumes she is meant for a career as an accompanist or music teacher, never to be accepted by audiences.

All that changes when renowned French pianist David Montagnier approaches the young woman with a proposition: become his partner for his demanding two-piano repertoire. Her incredulous reaction gives way to infatuation as the two of them become the toast of the concert stage. However, their budding romance takes a fateful turn when Bess meets David's former partner in Europe, "who reveals some not exactly compelling secrets about him," as a contributor to Kirkus Reviews put it. While that reviewer ultimately panned Heart and Soul as a "soap opera," a Publishers Weekly contributor had a different impression, citing Mandel for investing Bess with the author's "trademark self-deprecating humor." Herald, in another Booklist piece, found the novel "a compelling drama of phobias and mental illness." "Required reading," concluded Scribner. "Woven throughout the novel is music's power to communicate feelings and to transform the ordinary into something transcendent."

Mandel once told CA: "I began writing as a way to finance pet projects, and assumed I would never be able even to pay for my typewriter ribbons. But novel writing, much to my surprise, turned out to be fun (also agonizing, exhausting, and profoundly frustrating)....Forme, writing is a cinematic experience, as if I am describing a movie spinning away inside my head. I hope to achieve the kind of writing that most satisfies me as a reader: writing with a sharp visual impact. I am not much interested in plot with a sharp visual impact. I am not much interest in plot per se. Drama, for me, emerges out of the tension between carefully crafted layers: the things people say, what they actually mean, and finally, what they do. These elements are almost always in conflict with one another, and out of this conflict explodes enormous excitement. I want to write books that introduce the reader to lively, compelling people who will be remembered long after the last page.

"I am a descendant of the Oneida Community. I believe my connection with this experimental utopian society has had a substantial impact on me as a person and a writer. I grew up among people who had tried to achieve a paradise on earth. They were tragically disappointed, but they were also full of humor and a kind of nobility. Literature, art, and music were always considered more important than a new-model car or fashionable clothes. As children, we were encouraged to write plays and music to be performed regularly for the community.

"I was always a greedy reader, and most of the gobbling seemed to center on nineteenth-century novels. They are cinematic in the best sense. Characters and their environments are described with enormous clarity. I believe that my devotion to the Brontës, Jane Austen, and Anthony Trollope have directed my writing in a particular way, that for me, characterization will always be more important than plot, that visual detail will always hold more fascination than philosophical digressions.

"If I could write a modern Wuthering Heights, I might then feel free to throw my typewriter out the window and work in insurance sales."



Best Sellers, June, 1982, review of Quinn, p. 90.

Booklist, January 15, 1982, review of Quinn, p. 635; June 15, 1989, review of A Time to Sing, p. 1779; February 15, 2000, Diana Tixier Herald, review of Out of the Blue, p. 1090; March 15, 2002, Herald, review of Heart and Soul, p. 1212.

Books, July, 1990, review of A Time to Sing, p. 14.

English Journal, December, 1983, review of Quinn, p. 67.

Inside MS, summer, 2000, Pamela Stebbins, review of Out of the Blue, p. 63.

Kirkus Reviews, January 15, 1982, review of Quinn, p. 89; April 15, 1989, review of A Time to Sing, p. 577; February 15, 2002, review of Heart and Soul, p. 213.

Library Journal, February 15, 1982, review of Quinn, p. 474; May 15, 1989, review of A Time to Sing, p. 90.

Publishers Weekly, March 27, 1981, review of Change of Heart, p. 50; January 29, 1982, review of Quinn, p. 56; March 21, 1986, review of Portrait of aMarried Woman, p. 74; April 21, 1989, review of A Time to Sing, p. 82; February 28, 2000, review of Out of the Blue, p. 63; April 1, 2002, review of Heart and Soul, p. 52.

School Library Journal, March, 1982, review of Quinn, p. 163.

Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), July 9, 1989, review of A Time to Sing, p. 5.

Voice of Youth Advocates, June, 1982, review of Quinn, p. 35.

West Coast Review of Books, July, 1986, review of Portrait of a Married Woman, p. 31; number 2, 1989, review of A Time to Sing, p. 23.


Ballantine Books Web site, (June 13, 2002), Sally Mandel, "In a New York State of Mind."

Bookbrowser, (June 13 2002), Harriet Klausner, review of Heart and Soul.

Romance Reader, (June 13, 2002), Susan Scribner, review of Out of the Blue and Heart and Soul.*